She wasn't sure how he got the drop on her, but it happened. Rather suddenly, in fact. Everything happened so fast, she couldn't keep up, and it overwhelmed her. But how did this incident begin? It's a long story...

It all began in the town of Londo. A cozy, friendly town filled with good people, good places, good scenery, and good food, a somewhat wondrous city with a favor for technology. It was also the hometown of her friend, Edward Falcon, who she respected as a fellow fighter and as a pilot. She had gone to Londo to participate in the festival that was coming up soon, and figured it might be a good time to make some extra money on the side with her performances. And in the meantime, she was looking forward to all the spectacular wonder of said technology of the country, as such things were practically nonexistent in the one she hailed from... how excited was she, to be here the day before the festival, the sort of celebration she loved and would get legitimately excited about. Her guardian had let her go on the condition she keep up her training as much as possible, which somewhat agitated her, as she wanted to play and look around rather than commit to any serious work right now, given the events to take place the following day.

As she was going around and exploring the town, she overheard a few people talking a man who was rudely asking where a Power Stone may be found to various people, claiming him 'gruff' and 'towering', and yet laughing about him, as they believed Power Stones were nothing but a myth, a legend... she knew they were real, but telling people about them is a useless venture, and besides, proving they were real to just anyone would be a stupid idea. Overwhelmed with suspicion, she set off to look for him...

What is a Power Stone, you ask? It is a very powerful and legendary jewel said to bestow great power to anyone who possesses it. It's unknown what that power may be exactly, as there are very few records detailing it. If enough are gathered together, who knows what possibilities could happen. They say they can even make wishes come true. But again, as mentioned, only a scant few know that they are real. Most of the people here in the world believe it all as a tale you exchange around bars and children.

Her name was Ayame, a kunoichi from the city of Odeo, who was always on the lookout to find a stone or two. She always wore her a yellow-cloud-patterned green and white trim robe with long dangling sleeves which was held tight by a large sash tied around the waist, the rest of which revealing her legs, red tape around her arms and legs, red gloves, and sandals. She kept her blue hair tied up in a large bun in the back, held together with a gold headband and matching pins. She was a cute young woman with brown eyes, and would be fast approaching her 20s.

But back about the man. When she lost him among the crowds, she did some digging up, asking non-conspicuous questions and using her looks to at least tug at some heartstrings to get some of the more stubborn people to divulge what they knew. Ayame picked up only a few small hints from people here and there until she came across a discussion going on between a few suspicious people in an antique store. She snuck inside, overhearing a conversation going on. She swiftly hid herself from view behind the shadows of a staircase that led upstairs and lent an ear. There he was. The man she had been tailing all this time...

"Listen, old man..." A large, burly man wearing a coat and wide-brimmed hat said, cracking his knuckles, his large hands surrounded in the white gloves he wore, and growling in a threatening voice, "...I know your granddaughter sent it to you for safekeeping when she found it. The Power Stone I'm looking for. Tou will give it to me. Otherwise, I won't spare you any expense. We've made our messages clear to you already, and your senile attitude is only making it worse."

"You can threaten me all you like! You've already broke some of the stuff in my store twice now... third time isn't a charm!" yelled an old man in red robes with a long white beard that nearly touched the floor. Apparently this person's granddaughter highly trusted this man if he really had such a thing in his possession.

"Maybe for you, it's not. But if I have to get things through to you, then, heck, yes, it's worth it for me," the man snarled, threatening the old man some more, "And if that doesn't work, perhaps I have to break some fingers to make you understand. Hmm, maybe I should pay a visit to your wife who is in the hospital right now, recovering from that mishap she had downtown." He then chucked wickedly, "Maybe I should pay another visit to that cute little granddaughter of yours who runs that item shop? You know... the redhead with the freckles? It was she I found out about that Power Stone from."

"Y-you...! How dare you!"

"Hahahaha! You know where you stand, you old duff. You're in no position to make demands or deny me what I want. Just give it to me."

"And you think you can bully me around?"

"Boys?"

Ayame watched from behind the doorframe as the two men's thugs, both also wearing coats, began to smash various objects and antiques in the store. Some of them seemed very old, probably from 30 or 40 years ago. The old man cried out and begged them to stop as they wrecked the various items in the store.

"Well?" The burly man asked, "Do you talk, or will your family have to suffer next?"

"FINE!" The old man then cried, defeated, "Fine, have it your way... I'll talk. I already gave it away."

"Wh... WHAT!"

"I gave it to a beautiful and exotic young woman who was asking about it... she claimed to be from Mahdad, and was looking for a Power Stone she heard I had. She told me she desperately needed it, and that she knew my granddaughter closely... she proved it herself, and I couldn't say no. So I gave it to her..."

"...you...!" The burly man angrily clinched his fists together, quaking in fury, "...you gave it to her? Stupid old man!" In his anger, he lashed out, and destroyed an antique painting to his left, making the old man cry out, "Grrrr! Where is this woman now? What is her name?"

"Sh-she should still be here in Londo... there's a festival coming here soon... she said she planned to take part in it this week when it starts... she said her name was Rouge..."

"For your sake, she better be there. And you will tell no one about what we talked about today... otherwise you are gonna pay dearly... your cute little granddaughter too. I'll send you her head when I get ahold of her, I promise you that."

"N-no...! I won't say a word... I promise..."

"I'm glad you were at least cooperative today. If you were this way earlier, things might have been less unfortunate for you."

With that, the three men left. Ayame saw her chance, and quietly and quickly began tailing them without being seen. So Rouge is here in Londo? She figured as much... the festival would be a good opportunity for Rouge to make some money fortune-telling so that she could continue travelling. Even adventurers can't adventure when they have no money in their pockets. There was something about that burly man that seemed familiar, but she couldn't get a look at his face, as it was hidden in the shadows of the hat he wore.

The little kunoichi followed them all the way into an apartment building which sat at one of the areas in town, just behind a marketplace. There, the three men climbed a rickety staircase about three flights up before their boss produced a key, inserted it into the keyhole, and unlocked the door. One of his cronies opened the door, and the burly man entered with the other cohort... the last man looked around cautiously before heading inside. He didn't even see Ayame. Then again, that was because she took a different route inside... she simply jimmied a window open, and crawled in through there into the bedroom of the apartment they were staying... she gently and quietly cracked the door open and watched as his thugs sat at a table.

"It's okay, boss... we can work this out, right?" One of the goons said, as the burly man removed his hat and coat and hanged them up on a coatrack, "I mean, that chick's still gotta be around in the town somewhere."

"Somewhere is not good enough," the burly man growled. He was quite muscular, tall... a tanned complexion, and with short blond hair that was spiked upwards. Aside from the white gloves he wore which had studded bracelets on them, he wore blue jeans with large yellow bolts on each side, and around his waist was a gun belt, with bullets, and a gun firmly in it's holster. He also had on black leather boots which also had studs around the ends of them. He was wearing a white shirt which looked like it might rip at any second due to his bulk, and around his neck he wore a necklace which had a small stone attached to it which rested against his chest.

As he turned to face the men, his face was revealed... a chiseled, frightening face, with red eyes and fanged teeth. The face of a man who threw his humanity aside and became a devil. Ayame recognized him immediately from a previous encounter or two. His name was Valgas, a former wrestler who had a very impressive career in the ring. However, he had always longed for power, and the glory he received during his tenure in the sport was not enough. He wished to have the Power Stones, as many as he could get, so he could have ultimate power.

Valgas...! she gasped in her mind, I should have known... but I thought he was dead?

At one time, Valgas set off to find them all himself. He nearly succeeded, too. The incident, however, erupted into an erratic chaos that even he couldn't control, and when it was over, everyone thought he had perished... but his presence here and now dispels that. And unfortunately, none of the others who were involved in that battle for the stones know that he's alive.

"Somewhere will not tell us where Rouge is," Valgas snarled, "I must have that Power Stone!"

"Ea-easy, boss, easy. Maybe we can ask around the town. I'm sure someone's seen her wandering around the town."

"You'd better pray they have. That woman eluded me once before. She will not get away again," Valgas then sat at the table, pulling away the chair before sitting into it and folding his arms across his chest, "Of course, we need to make sure 'he' won't get involved either."

"You mean that Falcon dude, right?"

"Right. He might be a fly boy all the time, always out on an adventure to find his father and all, but I'm not leaving it up the chance. Everybody gets homesick eventually," he huffed, "If he ever finds out I'm alive... nngh, I haven't even fully recovered yet..."

"Why don't we just kill the woman? We could snipe her from afar, and..."

"Hmph. We could, couldn't we," Valgas rubbed his chin in thought for a moment, "but we'd have to get her to a secluded spot away from prying eyes. We couldn't very well kill her in public, obviously. And she's very careful and smart. We'd have to strike her when she least expects it and do it quickly and as cleanly as we can."

Ayame leaned in a little more. As her weight shifted forward a little against the door she was next to, the door also creaked a little, attracting the attention of the baddies. Valgas rose his hand to pause the conversation, as he thought he saw someone out the corner of his eye, "someone's here," he softly said.

"...!" Ayame's eyes widened. She had to get out of there quickly. Maybe Valgas was seeing and hearing things. Maybe if she kept quiet, and quietly slipped out like the wind, she could get away, and warn Rouge about Valgas... she quietly moved away from the door and began to head toward the window she left open.

But in a flash, Valgas immediately got up, knocking the chair over as he did so, and dashed toward the open door, "I can see you!" he yelled. Before Ayame could get to the window, the door was kicked violently open and Ayame, in her hurry, scrambled so she could attempt to leap into the opening. Before she could, however, Valgas took advantage of her fumbling and ran forth and swung his fist hard toward her body. He managed to clock the poor girl clean in the abdomen, causing her to fall to the side away from the window.

She then struggled to get up and reached into her robe to quickly throw a shuriken at her attacker, but Valgas was quick to react, kicking the weapon out of her hand and across the room. "You think you'll stop me with your toys, kid?" He laughed, lunging for her. Ayame quickly recovered her composure to strike him in the gut, catching him off guard for a moment. However, this only made him angry. Ayame realized that if she wanted to get out of here, she had to fight! Valgas' goons came in just then and one of them fired a warning shot... the bullet of which whizzed by her right ear, the surprise of the bang and how close it came to hitting her shaking the girl off her guard.

This was all the opportunity Valgas needed, and his experience as a fighter gave him a good sense as to when a window of opportunity presented itself. He quickly closed in, and swung another hard right hook into her, and this time it struck her true in the temple. Ayame gasped as the blow hit her so hard it threw her across the room and she landed with a dull thud against the wall. As she slid down onto her rear, she was beginning to lose consciousness from the impact, and she let out a soft groan as her attacker stepped in her fading view as she weakly held her head up with her ebbing strength...

Which brings us to what's happening now. What transpired that made Ayame wonder just how she could have let this happen.

She couldn't believe how Valgas got the upper hand on her so quickly and efficiently. Perhaps it was her own fault for underestimating him; while he was at his weakest, he proved to still have enough strength and agility to take her off her guard and overwhelm her.

"Spying on me was the biggest mistake of your life," Valgas snarled, then laughed, just before Ayame lowered her head back down with a small sigh, and let gravity take over, her body sliding off to the side and to the floor. "Boys? We'll have to deal with our little guest..." Valgas then laughed as she collapsed. And after hearing those words, Ayame groaned, closed her eyes and let her consciousness slip away from her, and her world became enveloped in darkness.